The Engadget Interview: Duracell President Stassi Anastassov on future battery tech (video)

The Engadget Interview: Duracell President Stassi Anastassov on future battery tech (video)

It is 2012, and we’re related to the online each second of every single day. After which, close to the top of every day by day cycle, all of it stops. “My battery is lifeless.” Is it actually your battery that is turn out to be depleted? In fact it isn’t, although it definitely feels as if it’d as properly be. Stassi Anastassov experiences that every day setback identical to you and I and the remainder of the world. However the Duracell President and lengthy-time Procter and Gamble government is able to discover a method round it, and that is precisely what he plans to do. We sat down with Anastassov in our New York Metropolis workplace to talk concerning the previous, current and way forward for battery tech, and we even had an opportunity to satisfy the Duracell Bunny (sure, that furry hare was property of the “Trusted All over the place” firm lengthy earlier than it made its transfer to Energizer). So how does P&G plan to rework the moveable energy business, and what’s that Duracell Powermat three way partnership all about? You will discover the solutions to these questions and extra in our interview simply previous the break.

All of us use AA and AAA batteries, even at present. However have you ever observed a shift in demand through the years?

I’ve observed an growing variety of units utilizing lithium-ion, however I have never observed and our forecast does not present a serious shift in demand away from spherical cell batteries. On one hand you’ve gotten two streams going parallel; there are increasingly more units, and the excellent news is there’s not solely extra units utilizing lithium-ion but in addition extra units utilizing spherical cell batteries. In fact, with a leaky bucket, of a number of the units utilizing spherical cell batteries shifting to lithium-ion. So long as there’s extra replenishing units utilizing spherical cell batteries, the best way I predict the market is one hundred plus or minus two.

Why did Duracell by no means launch a disposable lithium AA battery, like Energizer Superior?

We’ve AA Lithium batteries and we’re even promoting them in Europe and Latin America, nevertheless we do not consider that the lithium spherical cell battery supplies the buyer with the kind of worth that they want. There are two quite simple causes for that: one, it is a very costly know-how that has a really particular advantage of speedy power burst that involves life in a snap-and-shoot digital camera. Nevertheless, as you could have observed, the variety of snap-and-shoot cameras utilizing these disposable spherical cell batteries are disappearing very quickly. So in a means, within the gadget the place the lithium spherical cell battery actually offers any shopper benefit, that market is shrinking very quickly, whereas investing into a serious infrastructure to supply spherical cell lithium-ion battery is a really pricey affair.

Contemplating that the lithium-ion battery would sometimes value up two to 3, as much as 4 occasions greater than an alkaline, it’s extremely troublesome to justify that it is an excellent worth proposition, and that is in all probability one of many explanation why that phase is fairly flat to declining 2 % of the market. I feel there are numerous extra areas which have excessive potential to please the buyer and to make a distinction within the market than focusing, for us at the least, lots of analysis and improvement in disposable lithium batteries.

Are your rechargeable merchandise gaining reputation? What % of the enterprise do rechargeable batteries characterize?

The rechargeable batteries, I feel, could have an enormous benefit in toys. When you have got youngsters, you see how typically you drain the battery, and I personally use rechargeable batteries in a few of my boys’ toys. Just like the trains, when my seven yr previous goes on and on and on and I am out of rechargeable batteries, I truly, throughout in the future can use a minimum of two or three units of alkaline batteries. So there’s a huge benefit for some very-excessive-utilization toys. It is also, nevertheless, a problem and a behavior change. That is why that market continues to be comparatively underdeveloped. It is barely extra developed in Western Europe, the place you’ve got as much as 15 to twenty % of the market in rechargeable batteries, whereas I feel within the U.S. we’re under 10 % or one thing like that.

As extra units transfer to proprietary and even non-detachable batteries, how will Duracell stay related out there?

In a approach, the smartphone delivers greater than what you will ever have the ability to use, since you’ll be restricted by the battery.

We as a Duracell firm, and as a part of Procter & Gamble, we’ll all the time attempt to stay related with altering shopper habits. For Procter & Gamble that is nothing new. The habits of washing detergents, diapering and even cosmetics and shampoos have all the time advanced, however that is our job to remain one step forward and on this sense we’re nice believers in staying with the core the place we’ve the best to proceed profitable, which is, as I discussed to you, the alkaline battery market that, for the foreseeable future, goes to be an enormous and viable, and even in lots of areas, rising market.

Now, speaking concerning the U.S. and Western Europe, with nearly each different area, particularly within the creating world, the alkaline battery market is rising very quickly, as a result of there you’ve a dynamic the place changing the market from the quaint low-performing zinc batteries which have perhaps one-tenth of the facility of alkaline, and individuals are shifting to the extra performing alkaline batteries. That is why the quantity-one precedence is that we’re the main battery firm and we consider that we’ve a proper to win with the disposable alkaline batteries. Nevertheless, with the altering shopper habits, we see a really huge development in smartphone utilization, as a result of the smartphone just isn’t anymore a telephone — truly the smartphone shouldn’t even be referred to as the smartphone, it must be referred to as a common private system, as a result of solely three % of the time, individuals are utilizing a smartphone for speaking. Ninety % of the time they’re utilizing it for browsing, texting, Googling, listening to music, watching movies, studying your [Engadget] articles and downloading their boarding passes, and so forth… this can be a development that’s going to proceed.

Once I speak about smartphones and sensible units, I might in all probability put them along with the pads, the tablets. I see them increasingly more as an extension of the identical sort of phase between smartphone, after which over time, as you rightly level out, there’s going to be even some hybrids between telephone, pill, totally different sizes and so forth. In order that phase goes to be rising, and being essential and true to our heritage of making an attempt to resolve conflicts, there’s in the present day an enormous battle that you simply and I and each shopper faces: the will to make use of the smartphone and the methods to make use of the smartphone exceed drastically the potential of the smartphone being charged all through the day. So in a means, the smartphone delivers greater than what you will ever have the ability to use, since you’ll be restricted by the battery. This can be a fantastic dilemma to have and this can be a fantastic problem to have and is a typical problem that Procter & Gamble and Duracell are wanting to resolve.

Are you able to inform us what motivated the joint-enterprise with Powermat?

So going again to Duracell and Procter & Gamble, once we typically do one thing, we name it the panorama evaluation for the longer term, and each enterprise, each firm is doing that: taking a look at the place the enterprise is immediately and the place it is going sooner or later. On this panorama evaluation, we clearly see, as I discussed, the world of sensible charging, wi-fi charging, on-the-go charging goes to be an necessary space linked to the growing smartphone and sensible system utilization. As a matter of reality, we now have spent a few years — it is nothing new — in taking a look at how we will work to enhance the lives of individuals.

Each firm faces a quite simple crossroads, ultimately. Are we going to do that alone or are we going to search for partnerships with people who we consider have one thing, whether or not it is a know-how, a course of or a mind-set, that we consider might be higher off than making an attempt to do it ourselves. At Procter & Gamble, we do have a really robust tradition of working increasingly more in partnerships, know-how partnerships and outsourcing some areas — we name it Join and Develop, and it’s on this vein of considering that I, truly very early zoomed in on the corporate I felt had the most effective understanding, and the perfect product vary in wi-fi inductive charging, and this occurred to be Powermat. This led us to speaking to one another and that led to a wedding that led to the Duracell Powermat JV.

What is going to we see for inductive charging three, 5, even ten years out?

I’m hesitant to label a know-how as a result of Duracell Powermat shouldn’t be a few know-how, it is about delivering a pleasant expertise to the buyer, which means staying charged versus a state of affairs the place you all the time worry that you’re going to be out of energy, or that you’re going to not have the ability to undergo the day. As I stated concerning the evolution of what we’re delivering, we will be very open to the know-how that’s going to ship probably the most pleasant expertise, so whether or not that is inductive charging, conductive or loosely coupled, this isn’t essential. We aren’t a know-how firm per se on this one — we’re about delivering a shopper profit, higher than anyone else, and the know-how, we’ll all the time be capable of both develop it ourselves, license it if we’d like or work with another person to get it so long as we’re all the time offering the perfect wi-fi charging.

To your query, relating to how we label know-how, one of the best analogy I can consider is when Henry Ford developed the automotive and there have been no petrol stations. Immediately we’ve all these lovely automobiles referred to as the smartphones or the sensible units, however the one petrol station you will have is at residence or at work the place you could have a socket and the occasional socket that you simply discover someplace within the metropolis and that is not very useful. I do consider that there is going to be, sooner or later, the necessity for the charging station constructed up. This is likely one of the issues that we’re working with, chances are you’ll concentrate on the partnership that we’ve got with Madison Sq. Backyard, the place Madison Sq. Backyard, this iconic venue, goes to equip its constructing with Duracell Powermat enabled charging mats constructed into the tables, bars and so on… So in a means, Madison Sq. Backyard will develop into the primary charging station for smartphones in New York.

In 5 to 10 years from now, once you stroll into someplace to have a sandwich or someplace to have a espresso or a movie show or an airport, you’ll discover this charging station service…

I consider that, in 5 to 10 years from now, whenever you stroll into someplace to have a sandwich or someplace to have a espresso or a movie show or an airport, you’ll discover this charging station service — that is my imaginative and prescient. You will be out of the necessity to fear about your telephone lasting all through the day. I additionally consider that, in 5 to 10 years from now, having this service of energy and staying charged will turn into as pure as with the ability to hook onto a wi-fi community. Do you keep in mind the times whenever you solely had the cable at house at greatest and at work, and also you had some very particular areas or venues the place you may get wi-fi reception? Immediately you get wi-fi totally free nearly all over the place, and immediately, that, I consider, goes to be equally related for the shoppers. Particularly for New Yorkers, as a result of no less than once you stay in a metropolis or use your automotive quite a bit, you’ll be able to all the time declare which you can put your telephone in your automotive and cost it, however New Yorkers which are all the time on they go, you do not use automobiles, you have got very busy days, the day by no means stops earlier than ten or eleven — properly, good luck together with your battery until you discover the best charging stations!

Are you in talks with any producers to standardize battery varieties in units like cellphones and digital cameras?

We aren’t, at this time, in talks to do that, however it’s a fantastic query. It truly is so related as a result of, once I requested, as I’ve talked about that I am not an skilled on batteries, however I’m an professional on shoppers based mostly on my 26 to 27 years of labor with Procter & Gamble. Once I stated ‘Hey guys, the buyer wants a greater battery of their telephones and smartphones.’ No one informed me ‘Oh, it is unattainable.’ The primary reply was not that it is unimaginable however ‘Nicely, it is so difficult and so unpredictable.’ I stated ‘What do you imply, difficult and unpredictable?’ Nicely, the reply was ‘On a regular basis, there are new smartphones and each single telephone comes with totally different dimensions, totally different cavities and totally different necessities, so we will not proactively develop an answer, we virtually reactively take a look at what the producers provide you with and that signifies that by the point we’ve got then developed an answer for one producer, that telephone is already out of date they usually provide you with one thing new.’

The Verizons on this world, the AT&Ts of this world, they might like to have people who have longer lasting batteries in order that they will expend the capabilities of their telephones and clearly make extra income.

So we do not right now have a system the place we will take all our greatest scientists, all our greatest applied sciences, develop a superior lithium-ion battery after which exit out there, as a result of there will probably be no consumers. No producer at this time has a standardized battery — it takes us time to develop the proper know-how, to place in all of the intelligence, all of the juice, all of the capabilities in that battery, however we’re by no means given that point. That is why there is a disconnect between the best way the market operates in the present day and our capabilities to develop a superior product that is going to be an outstanding win for the shoppers and for the producers and for all of the suppliers. The Verizons on this world, the AT&Ts of this world, they might like to have folks that have longer lasting batteries in order that they will deplete the capabilities of their telephones and clearly make extra income.

What’s the motivation for a producer to undertake such a product?

I strongly consider that if we have been capable of have battery producers and system producers creating a set of ordinary necessities, proactively, when it comes to lithium-ion battery measurement and connectors, that may give the business extra time to work on the precise efficiency and added worth of the battery. Keep in mind additionally, that, for each lithium-ion battery that we’ve to develop, we then have to do testing, security testing, and so forth., earlier than it’s prepared. If we’ve a way more commonplace strategy the best way spherical cell batteries are (AA, AAA, C, D), then we get rid of an entire a part of the method associated to security requirements, qualification for particular cavity, and so on., so we take all that improvement work away and may actually focus our power on including extra intelligence to the battery. Intelligence might be within the areas of creating it wirelessly connectible, it may be within the areas of lasting longer and even being able to extra speedy charging. There are lots of ways in which we will add intelligence to a battery that may delight the buyer and the top-consumer far more than what is occurring right now if we have been capable of simplify the work and get rid of a few of the uncertainties with regards to measurement, specs, and so on.

What would the benefit be for shoppers?

The benefit for the buyer is, I might say, two fold. One, they will have the ability to get higher performing batteries versus at this time. The second benefit is that they will have the ability to leverage an aftermarket of batteries — they will have the ability to go to a Greatest Purchase, to a Walmart, to a Goal and truly purchase an additional battery for his or her telephone, as a result of there might be perhaps six or seven, if we take a look at the analogy of AA, AAA, there might be six to 10, name it, most battery varieties serving one hundred fifty kinds of telephones and smartphones. And subsequently, there will probably be additionally a viable aftermarket and in addition for the client, for the commerce, they will be capable of truly listing these SKUs the place immediately, they can not record one hundred fifty totally different batteries. So there can be many benefits. Additionally, I feel that over time, that is additionally going to result in a less expensive gadget, as a result of when you’ll be able to standardize, we’ll be capable of get some economies of scale and hopefully that is going to get into the palms of the buyer, to have the ability to purchase and get the higher battery at a decrease value.

Will there be any modifications to the usual AA and AAA merchandise within the close to future, or will alkaline batteries stay principally unchanged?

Our ambition is to constantly enhance the efficiency of our merchandise, and we’re taking a look at some ways of how we will enhance the efficiency and the standard of our batteries. I consider that there are various viable methods and we’ve an innovation pipeline that clearly could be very troublesome for me to discuss now, that’s going to please the buyer additionally on the idea of alkaline batteries, as a result of opposite to in style perception, there are very vital variations within the alkaline batteries — how they’re manufactured, what they ship, the security requirements, and so on. — so there’s room for us to innovate on this area and we’re about innovation.

We have established that there shall be a necessity for disposable batteries all over the world for a while to return. Are there any plans to increase recycling packages, or to launch a serious initiative on that entrance?

We’re, right now, within the means of creating a voluntary recycling system for disposable batteries.

Completely. In my position as president for Duracell, I’m actively engaged with business leaders of the battery producers and we’re, at this time, within the strategy of creating a voluntary recycling system for disposable batteries. We even have an settlement that may be a undertaking all of us need to do and we’re within the course of of truly defining the parameters of how that is going to be accomplished sooner or later. I consider strongly in that, and I am a really robust proponent for doing every part we will to be accountable, and do the whole lot we will to ensure our planet is as inexperienced as attainable. We have to take a look at methods which might be truly environmentally constructive, as a result of what some individuals overlook is that typically a program, whether or not that is battery recycling or different issues, contemplating all of the transportation, gasoline and all of the actions round that, can truly create a extra destructive influence that the precise product if it isn’t recycled. We’re very a lot pushed by having a constructive environmental influence with each exercise, however there’s at the moment a really robust dedication, I can say, from the battery business that that is one thing that we’re going to do — a voluntary recycling program.

Is there a timeline in place?

We have now a timeline that’s going to clearly be a rolling-thunder timeline, the place it’s extremely troublesome to determine a program in a single day in such a big geography as america, however we’re taking a look at beginning in some areas already in 12 months.

Are you able to present some specifics of how that’s going to be carried out?

Clearly, that is actually a part of what is essential for us to provide you with, as a result of, crucial factor is that we’re not about inexperienced washing. I consider that we have to provide you with a system that may truly stimulate scalable recycling. That is why we have to provide you with execution that can be consumer-pleasant and straightforward sufficient for the shoppers to do. I haven’t got the precise particulars but, as a result of this can be a work in progress. That is why the timeline, we’ve got an ambition to have it going already in 12 months, however it’s all going to depend upon the 2 standards: one is that it must be environmentally constructive, and two, it must be straightforward and intuitive sufficient for the buyer and our buyer companions that it is going for use.

What different applied sciences are you presently exploring?

We’re right now intently following gadget tendencies, shopper habits developments and we’re all the time going to return to what we actually can do greatest. The Duracell firm was born as a result of it was fixing a development and assembly a development: the heydays of the Walkmans and the Discmans. Predicting the gadget developments, predicting the market improvement, that is what we will do, so clearly an space associated to non-public energy, to getting access to energy in a tool, in a toy, in a recreation, each space and the way this space develops is an space for us, Duracell, Procter & Gamble, to play and that is the place we’ll be taking a look at totally different applied sciences to ship on these wants.

What do you see for the way forward for the battery business typically?

The battery business, in my thoughts, will proceed to be a particularly essential business for the buyer. At the moment in an American family you’ve 39 to forty units on common, utilizing a battery. It’s cradle to grave, from the infant monitor to the listening to help, and it’s from the poorest shopper that has a flashlight when the lights are off or the grid does not work, to probably the most wealthy and gadget-wealthy shopper who has perhaps as much as 70 to eighty battery units. So the battery business is enjoying an unimaginable position within the life of each shopper and that is why I feel that that is an business that’s extraordinarily related and necessary with clearly a shiny future if we’re capable of proceed delivering on the necessities and the altering shopper wants.

And final by not least… the place’s Duracell’s reply to the Energizer Bunny?

Outdoors of the U.S., in nearly each different market, you could have the Duracell Bunny.

The Energizer Bunny is an excellent iconic system, and out of doors of the U.S., in nearly each different market, you’ve the Duracell Bunny, and I am unsure you are conscious of that. I’ve my workplace filled with bunnies, which might be all Duracell Bunnies, however the level is that Duracell invented the Bunny. We have been additionally promoting with the Bunny in North America first. At one time limit, the management of the Duracell firm in North America determined that they wanted a brand new marketing campaign. Any person stated, ‘We’re not promoting Bunnies, we’re promoting batteries,’ and we moved to a special marketing campaign. The best way the trademark regulation works is once you’ve not been utilizing a personality or some component in your promoting for a number of years, it turns into free, and that’s when our rivals began utilizing the bunny. That is the way it turned the Energizer Bunny.

When you, at the moment, journey to Paris and also you activate the TV, you will notice a Duracell Bunny. For those who journey to Moscow and activate the TV you will see a Duracell Bunny, and so forth. So that is the way it truly occurred, however we’re extraordinarily proud of our model and our fairness within the U.S. The marketing campaign we’ve within the U.S. that’s constructing across the concept of ‘trusted all over the place’ — that highlights the good thing about our superior know-how and the position that we play in peoples lives, has served us very properly, and we now have very robust equities behind Duracell additionally in North America.

Is there anything that you simply’d wish to share?

I consider that the one means we’ll have the ability to get to a world the place we have now a extra standardized lithium-ion smartphone or telephone battery is that if we will discover a solution to get system producers and battery producers collectively and cease seeing the battery and cavity measurement as some sort of aggressive benefit the best way individuals have been seeing the cables, and now everyone has moved to micro-USB. Immediately, wrongly, system producers consider that, properly, they will do their very own little battery, they will have a particular cavity and it will give them some sort of benefit. I don’t see what benefit it provides them, I do not see any worth in that.

Perhaps there was a bonus 4 years in the past, when, nonetheless, there was some type of a contest between who has the slimmest telephone, and so on., however as we’re shifting increasingly more in the direction of some degree of an analogous look, as a result of finally if you wish to have a tactile display and all these apps, [looking at his phone] that is in all probability the minimal measurement that you need to go for, so I consider that by some means, 4 or 5 years in the past, there was extra justification for a tool producer to take a look at the dimensions and the cavity and the battery as an afterthought. When you design the optimum telephone, probably the most engaging telephone, okay, this is the area left for the battery. At this time, I feel that the advantages of getting a greater battery will largely offset maintaining your playing cards near your chest and never revealing the dimensions of the battery that you’ll want. That is why I feel that the time is ripe to get into some degree of standardization on the lithium-ion batteries.

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